A controversial recommendation from Bali's governor that a yearly quota of 1,000 turtles be set for ceremonial sacrifice now appears a dead issue following its rejection by the Central government in Jakarta.
Despite pledges by Governor Pastika that the sacrificed turtles would not re-open the long-banned turtle trade in Bali or see the meat from the turtles on sale at local satay stands, Indonesian NGO's and community groups were quick in rejecting the idea. [See: Serangan Islanders Against Bali's Turtle Trade] And, while turtle meat is a long-standing local delicacy, many Balinese now vehemently oppose the wholesale slaughter of endangered turtles on religious or exotic appetite grounds. In the case of the people of Serangan island, a local population which once derived much of its income from the turtle trade has responded to education and publicity, becoming one the most vocal opponents to any kind of turtle trade in Bali.
Pastika's desire to have a carefully controlled annual quota of only 1,000 turtles for ceremonial purposes has apparently been dealt a final death blow by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry in Jakarta which turned down the governor's request based on scientific recommendations from experts engaged by the ministry. Quoted in the Jakarta Post, an official of the Forestry Ministry, Masyud, said, "the law clearly mandates it is not possible; the green turtles are included in the animals listed for protection."
Jakarta officials and NGO's in the Capital were said to be shocked by the large number of turtles asked for in the governor's quota; seeing a large number as difficult to monitor and creating an opportunity for concealment of Bali's illegal turtle trade.
Following Jakarta's rejection of the turtle quota, the head of the Bali Hindu Faith Council, Ngurah Sudiana, said he will asked national leaders to approve a smaller quota. He told the press that five turtles are need for each of the 100 to 150 large ceremonies held every year at various temples across the island. "The central government should understand the need for green turtles as part of traditional ceremonies because it relates to our faith," Sudiana said. "Prohibiting it will hurt Balinese people."
Many Balinese temples have changed ceremonial procedures that once mandated the decapitation of turtles and now live-release turtles back into the ocean as part of their offering ceremonies.
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